Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Queen's Birthday

HER MOST GRACIOUS MAJESTY Elizabeth The Second, OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND, AND OF HER OTHER REALMS AND TERRITORIES QUEEN, HEAD OF THE COMMONWEALTH, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH.

THE QUEEN is 92 today.

Her Majesty was born at 17 Bruton Street, London, on the 21st April, 1926, and ascended the throne, upon the demise of her father, GEORGE VI, 6th February, 1952.

The Queen usually spends her birthday privately, at Windsor Castle.

The occasion is marked publicly by a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, London, and 21 gun salutes in the other nations of the United Kingdom.

Three cheers for Her Majesty The Queen.

Friday, 20 April 2018

AB Simon

My Nauticalia  replica of Simon

Simon (ca 1947-49) was the ship's cat who served on the Royal Navy frigate HMS Amethyst.

In 1949, during the Yangtze Incident, he received the PDSA's Dickin Medal after surviving injuries from a cannon shell, raising morale, and killing off a rat infestation during his service.

Simon was found wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong in March 1948 by 17-year-old Ordinary Seaman George Hickinbottom, a member of the crew of HMS Amethyst, the Royal Navy frigate stationed in the city in the late 1940s.


At this stage, it is thought Simon was approximately one year old, and was very undernourished and unwell.

Hickinbottom smuggled the cat aboard ship, and Simon soon ingratiated himself with the crew and officers, particularly because he was adept at catching and killing rats on the lower decks.

Simon rapidly gained a reputation for cheekiness, leaving presents of dead rats in sailors' beds, and sleeping in the captain's cap.

The crew viewed Simon as a lucky mascot, and when the ship's commander changed later in 1948, the outgoing Ian Griffiths left the cat for his successor, Lieutenant-Commander Bernard Skinner RN, who took an immediate liking to the friendly animal.

However, Skinner's first mission in command of Amethyst was to travel up the Yangtze River to Nanking to replace the duty ship there, HMS Consort.

Halfway up the river the ship became embroiled in the "Yangtze incident", when Chinese communist gun batteries opened fire on the frigate.

One of the first rounds tore through the captain's cabin, seriously wounding Simon. Skinner died of his wounds soon after the attack.

The badly wounded cat crawled on deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship's surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night.

He did manage to survive however, and after a period of recovery, he returned to his former duties in spite of the indifference he faced from the new ship's captain, Lieutenant-Commander John Kerans RN.

While anchored in the river, the ship had become overrun with rats, and Simon took on the task of removing them with vigour, as well as raising the morale of the sailors.

Following the ship's escape from the Yangtze, Simon became an instant celebrity, lauded in British and world news, and presented with the "Animal Victoria Cross", the Dickin Medal, as well as a Blue Cross medal, the Amethyst campaign medal, and the fanciful rank of "Able Seacat".

Thousands of letters were written to him, so much that one Lieutenant Stuart Hett RN was appointed "cat officer" to deal with Simon's post.

At every port Amethyst stopped at on its route home, Simon was presented with honour, and a special welcome was made for him at Plymouth in November when the ship returned.

Simon was, however, like all animals entering the UK, subject to quarantine regulations, and was immediately sent to an animal centre in Surrey.

Whilst in quarantine, Simon contracted a virus and, despite the attentions of medical staff and thousands of well-wishers, died on the 28th November, 1949, from a complication of the viral infection caused by his war wounds.

Hundreds, including the entire crew of HMS Amethyst, attended his funeral at the PDSA Ilford Animal Cemetery in East London.


Simon is also commemorated with a bush planted in his honour in the Yangtze Incident Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Oriel Temple

THE VISCOUNTS MASSEREENE AND FERRARD WERE THE SECOND LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY LOUTH, WITH 7,193 ACRES

JOHN FOSTER, of Dunleer, County Louth, son of Colonel Anthony Foster, married Elizabeth, youngest daughter of William Fortescue, of Newrath, County Louth, and aunt of William Henry, 1st Earl of Clermont, and by her had issue,
ANTHONY, his heir;
Thomas (Rev);
John William, MP for Dunleer;
Margaret; Charlotte; Alice.
Mr Foster died in 1747, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ANTHONY FOSTER (1705-79), of Collon, County Louth, MP for Dunleer, 1738-60, MP for County Louth, 1761-66, who wedded firstly, in 1736, Elizabeth, daughter of William Burgh, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
William (Rt Rev);
Margaret.
He espoused secondly, in 1749, Dorothea, daughter of Thomas de Burgh.

Mr Foster was succeeded by his elder son,

THE RT HON JOHN FOSTER (1740-1828), of Dunleer, County Louth, MP for Dunleer, 1761-8, MP for County Louth, 1761-1800, who married Margaretta Amelia Foster, VISCOUNTESS FERRARD in her own right.

Mr Foster was elevated to the peerage, in 1821, as BARON ORIEL, of Ferrard, County Louth.


His wife, Margaretta Amelia (daughter of Thomas Burgh MP, of Bert, County Kildare) was created Baroness Oriel in her own right, 1790; and advanced to a viscountcy, 1797, as VISCOUNTESS FERRARD.

They had issue,
THOMAS HENRY;
Anna Dorothea, m to Lord Dufferin.
The only son and successor,

THOMAS HENRY (1772-1843), 2nd Viscount Ferrard, wedded, in 1810, Harriet, Viscountess Massereene and Baroness Loughneagh in her own right.

In consequence of this union, Lord Ferrard assumed the Viscountess's surname of SKEFFINGTON, and the arms of her ladyship's family.

COLLON HOUSE, or Oriel Temple, Collon, County Louth, the former lodge of Lord Ferrard, though small mansion, possesses associations of remarkable interest.

It stands in the midst of a demesne and an estate replete with the results of skilful and energetic improvement.

Anthony Foster found its entire extent, about 5,000 acres at that time, a waste, heath-clad sheep-walk, declared by many observers to be irreclaimable; and he began a course of elaborate, judicious, far-sighted and multitudinous procedures for enclosing, tilling and manuring it; and for causing the barren wilderness to smile with cultivation.

Mr Foster's son John, 1st Baron Oriel, carried forward the agricultural improvements, completed the plantations which had been commenced on the demesne, and lived to see the district equal in beauty and lusciousness of cultivation to many an estate improved in similar circumstances.

The plantations on the demesne covered almost 600 acres, and contained trees of every description.

Collon House is, according to Bence-Jones, a house which seems to have started literally as a temple or garden pavilion, built in the 1780s by John Foster, later 1st Baron Oriel.

The earlier house was known simply as Collon.

The Temple had a pedimented portico and a room painted by Peter de Gree.

About 1812, Mr Speaker Foster added to the Temple and it became a somewhat amorphous two-storey house with the entrance doorway in a bow, under a pedimented porch with two, fluted, Doric columns.

It is now greatly altered.

One of the main features of this period around Collon was the return of the Cistercian Order to the district in 1938.

The Order purchased Oriel Temple and surrounding lands and established a new monastery there.

It is located about three miles from the ruins of their first foundation in Ireland.

Mother Mary Martin, the founder of the medical and nursing order of nuns, The Medical Missionaries of Mary, established her first house of the Order, in Collon, in 1938.

The order moved to Drogheda shortly afterwards where they built the Lourdes Hospital.

First published in September, 2011.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Crom Castle

THE EARLS OF ERNE WERE THE SECOND LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY FERMANAGH, WITH 31,389 ACRES

This family is said to descend from a branch of the Creightons or Crichtons, Viscounts Frendraught, in Scotland, which title ceased with Lewis, the 5th Viscount, about 1690.

JOHN CREIGHTON, of Crum [sic] Castle, County Fermanagh, settled in County Fermanagh during the 17th century.

This John married Mary, daughter of Sir Gerald Irvine, of Castle Irvine, and was succeeded by his son,

ABRAHAM CREIGHTON, MP for County Fermanagh, who commanded a regiment of foot at Aughrim, 1692.

Colonel Creighton married Mary, daughter of the Rt Rev James Spotiswood, Lord Bishop of Clogher, and was succeeded by his only surviving son,

DAVID CREIGHTON,
 celebrated for his gallant defence, in 1689, of the family seat of Crom Castle, against a large body of the royal army (JAMES II's).

Having repulsed the assailants, young Creighton made a sally, at the instant that a corps of Enniskilleners was approaching to the relief of the castle, which movement placed the besiegers between two fires, and caused dreadful slaughter.

The enemy attempting to accomplish his retreat across an arm of Lough Erne, near Crom Castle, that spot became the scene of such carnage, that it bore the name of the "Bloody Pass".

This gentleman represented Enniskillen in parliament, and attaining the rank of major-general in the army, was appointed governor of the royal hospital of Kilmainham.

He wedded, in 1700, Catherine, second daughter of Richard Southwell, of Castle Mattress, County Limerick, and sister of 1st Lord Southwell.

Dying in 1728, he was succeeded by his only son,

ABRAHAM CREIGHTON
, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1768, as Baron Erne, of Crom Castle.

This nobleman espoused Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Lord Chief Justice Rogerson, of the court of King's Bench, by whom he had issue, his elder surviving son,

JOHN, 2nd Baron, who was created Viscount Erne, in 1781; and advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF ERNE, in 1789.

His lordship wedded firstly, in 1761, Catherine, 2nd daughter of the Rt Rev Robert Howard DD, Lord Bishop of Elphin, and sister of the Viscount Wicklow.

This nobleman espoused secondly, in 1776, Lady Mary Hervey, eldest daughter of the Rt Hon and Rt Rev Frederick Augustus [Hervey], Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, and had an only daughter, Lady Elizabeth Caroline Mary Crichton, who wedded James Archibald, Lord Wharncliffe.

Abraham Creighton, 2nd Earl (1765–1842)
John Crichton, 3rd Earl (1802–85)
John Henry Crichton, 4th Earl (1839–1914)
Henry William Crichton, Viscount Crichton (1872–1914)
Hon George David Hugh Crichton (1904–1904)
John Henry George Crichton, 5th Earl (1907–40)
Henry George Victor John Crichton, 6th Earl (1937-2015).
John Henry Michael Ninian [Crichton] succeeds his father as 7th Earl.

CROM CASTLE, near Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, is one of the the finest estates in County Fermanagh and Northern Ireland.

The Castle stands in a commanding position, with the entrance front to the east, the south front looks out towards the deer-park and Old Castle; while the west front (above) has the prospect of the boat-house and Inisherk Island.

I do admit to a prejudice here: My fondness for Crom cannot be overstated.


Books have been written about Crom. It used to be a thriving community, virtually self-contained, complete with its own post-office; stable-yard; school-house; church; riding school; turf-house and saw-mill; petrol pump; court-yard; and staff accommodation.

The old farm-yard has been transformed into visitor accommodation with a visitor centre, exhibition, tea-room, jetty and more besides.

There is the Crichton Tower, too, a stone folly built as a Famine relief project ca 1847 to serve as an observatory.

The demesne is situated in a heavily wooded lough shore and island setting, the nearest village being Newtownbutler.

The estate was established in the 17th century and the ruins of the original Plantation castle - built about 1611 and destroyed by fire in 1764 - are still accessible on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, surrounded by vestiges of a formal garden; and near to a pair of venerable old yew trees.

The formal garden resembles a garden that would have graced the old castle; but is, in fact, a later garden, made when a plan was laid out in the early 19th century for the present mansion of 1831, by Edward Blore.


It was what I have termed one of the Big Five in the county; though the total income from all the Erne estates, reaching far beyond County Fermanagh, generated £23,850 per annum by 1883 with an overall acreage of 40,365.

In today's terms, that would equate to an annual income of £1.1 million.

The mansion is on an elevated site and is surrounded by mature trees; with vistas cut through the planting to the lough,  buildings used as "eye-catchers" in the distance, including the old Castle.

The Castle combines Baronial and Tudor-Revival elements.

The entrance front has a gabled projection with a corbelled oriel at each end, though they're not totally similar; while the tall, battlemented entrance tower, incorporating a porte-cochére, is not central but to one side, against the left-hand gable.

There are stone-carvings on the south and east fronts of the Castle.

Inside there is a series of heraldic stained-glass panels in the bay window at the foot of the staircase, one of which commemorates the marriage of the 1st Earl to Lady Mary Hervey, daughter of the Earl Bishop of Derry and a sister of Lady Elizabeth Hervey (Duchess of Devonshire).
The hall and staircase at Crom Castle are among Edward Blore's finest surviving interiors: Classical in form, the staircase was given a late-Perpendicular veneer by the arcades at top and bottom - the latter rather in the feeling of a chantry chapel - while the cathedral atmosphere was enhanced by the encapsulation tiles of the floor and the armorial stained glass windows.
Although the other rooms have been greatly altered since Blore's day, Crom remains one of the most impressive Victorian houses in Northern Ireland.

The adjoining garden front is symmetrical, dominated by a very tall central tower with slender octagonal turrets.

On either side of it is a gable and oriel.

The landscaping scheme was planned by the eminent landscaper, W Gilpin, in 1838 and is one of the very few sites designed by a named English employee, at a time when English landscape design was pre-eminent.

Crom survives as an outstanding landscape park in the Picturesque style.

The natural features of lough and islands are embellished with trees, bridges and buildings.

The formal garden, with its parterre, is long gone. The parterre was at the west front and has since, I believe, been turned to lawn.
Parterres were a common feature of large country houses: Florence Court used to have one immediately to its rear; while Castle Ward had what was known as the Windsor Garden, a parterre in the sunken garden within its walled garden.
These features were relatively easy to maintain, since a small army of gardeners was employed for the purpose!

The house is set in wonderful surroundings, affording fine views.

There are some very fine trees, including a number of a great age both in the woodland and in the parkland, which includes a small Deer Park.

Victorian bedding schemes at the house, known from contemporary photographs, have been grassed over, but the conservatory of 1851 remains.

The walled garden survives, with glasshouses and bothies.

It is not planted up and the buildings are presently disused. The many attractive demesne buildings are in good repair and are listed.

The stables are used as offices and the farm is a Visitors Centre, with holiday accommodation.

I visited the Castle about thirty years ago and can vouch for its substantial size.

There used to be an indoor swimming-pool, though this has been taken away and, it is thought, turned into accommodation in the west wing.


The Erne Papers are held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The 4th Earl's time at Crom coincided with the Land Acts and the Land Courts.

The latter appreciably reduced the rents payable to the landlord in most of the land cases which were brought judicially before it, with the result that land purchase, when it came, was calculated on the basis of these new and lower 'judicial' rents.

Terence Reeves-Smyth writes:
... The large bulk of the Erne estates were sold by the 4th Earl between 1904 and 1909 under the ... Land Act of 1903. ... By April 1908 ..., [most] of the Fermanagh estates had been sold to their tenants for £240,440. Only 49 holdings remained unsold, valued at £12,770. ...
When the amounts already received for the Sligo and Donegal estates are added - £25,000 and £83,427 respectively, both sold in October 1905 - the grand total comes to £348,867, or £20 million at 2010 values.

Mr Reeves-Smyth does not mention Mayo, part of which was still unsold in 1912.

It also looks as if a further ca £70,000 remained to be realised, post-1908, out of the Donegal estate, and a further £26,000 out of the Sligo.

The Dublin estate, being entirely urban, was unaffected by the Land Acts.

The 5th Earl, for a time, served as lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards, his father's old regiment.

Soon after the outbreak of war in 1939, he raised the North Irish Horse, which was based in Enniskillen between November 1939 and February 1940.

In 1940, Lord Erne was killed near Dunkirk, and the castle and the demesne passed into the control of trustees whose most immediate problem was to protect the castle and demesne from the depredations of, firstly, British and then American forces, for whose use it was requisitioned at the beginning of the 2nd World War.

Terence Reeves-Smyth writes:
... From 1940 ... to 1958, the castle and demesne were controlled by a board of trustees. During the war the demesne actually made a profit, but the trustees throughout this period were considering leasing or selling the property to the Ministry of Agriculture. During the war and later in the 1950s the trustees undertook a number of tree fellings in the demesne woods to raise capital for the estate.

When the 6th Earl inherited in 1958, he attempted to create a dairy farm out of the farm lands, and later a toy factory in the farm yard, but neither enterprise was totally successful. Eventually part of the demesne was sold to the Department of the Environment in 1980 and subsequently, in 1987, the National Trust acquired the rest of the demesne, in part as a gift, while the castle itself has been retained by Lord Erne...
The Crom Estate is now held inalienably by the National Trust, including crucial rights to islands in, and parts of, Upper Lough Erne.

If its sale or lease to the Ministry of Agriculture had gone ahead, its "... great wealth of wildlife would have completely vanished under a monoculture of spruce" (Reeves-Smyth), and Crom Castle "may have been turned into a hotel or perhaps even demolished."

Under the 6th Earl, many changes were made and continued to be made to render the castle suitable for present-day living.

The 6th Earl's aunt, the Dowager Duchess of Abercorn GCVO, was Mistress of the Robes to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

The 5th Earl was a Page of Honour to HM King George V 1921-4, and a Lord-in-Waiting to HM King George VI 1936-9.

The 6th Earl served as HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, 1986-2012.

The West Wing at Crom Castle is available to rent, further details being available here.

The opening of the West Wing as holiday accommodation marks a new departure for Crom Castle which, as the family home, remains closed to the general public.

Erne arms courtesy of European Heraldry.  Photo credits: 6th Earl of Erne and Mr Noel Johnston.   First published in January, 2010.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Killynether House: II

I have written an article before about Killynether House, near Scrabo Monument and Newtownards, County Down.

In previous articles I speculated as to the original owner of the House; and my belief, at the time, was that the property belonged to the Londonderry Estate.

I believe I have found confirmation of this: a piece about Killynether in a publication called the Irish Builder, dated the 18th August, 1876.

Henry Chappell of Newtownards was responsible for extensive alterations and additions made in 1875-76 at Killynether House for the 5th Marquess of Londonderry, who declared himself absolutely satisfied with the result, which was alleged to be "elegant and commodious".

This opinion is a matter of debate, since Killynether House combined haphazard Gothic and Tudor elements and had minarets on its many slender turrets; though the House would certainly have been commodious.


The basement contained a kitchen, scullery, pantries, servants' hall and bedrooms, cellars and even a lift. On the ground floor, the drawing-room, dining-room, library, agent's room, two sitting-rooms, housekeeper's room, butler's pantry, store-room, cleaning-room, men-servants' room and a water-closet were all situated.

The first floor had nine bedrooms, all with dressing-rooms, a bathroom, linen-closet and more lavatories. The water supply came from a well, sunk in trap-rock half a mile away; and it was conveyed in pipes to a cistern cut in a hill-side at a level to ensure pressure.

The interior plumbing was termed "very complete and comprising all the most recent suggestions and practical improvements in sanitary science".

Killynether House was demolished in 1966.

First published in November, 2009.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Ardagh House

THE FETHERSTON BARONETS, OF ARDAGH, WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY LONGFORD, WITH 8,711 ACRES.


The founder of this family,

CUTHBERT FETHERSTON, of the ancient stock of the Fetherstons of Heathery Cleugh, County Durham, settled in Ireland after the battle of Worcester, in which Sir Thomas Fetherstonhaugh was made prisoner, and afterwards beheaded at Chester.

The eldest son of this Cuthbert, 

CUTHBERT FETHERSTON, had three sons,
Cuthbert, ancestor of Fetherston of Bracklyn;
THOMAS, of whom hereafter;
Francis.
The second son,

THOMAS FETHERSTON, settled at Ardagh, County Longford and marrying Miss Sherlock, had four sons,
John (Very Rev), Dean of Raphoe;
William, of Carrick;
Francis;
RALPH, of whom we treat.
The youngest son,

RALPH FETHERSTON (c1731-80), of Ardagh, MP for Longford County, 1765-6, was created a baronet in 1776, denominated of Ardagh, County Longford.

He wedded firstly, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Samuel Achmuty, of Brianstown, County Longford, by whom he had an only daughter, Elizabeth; and secondly, Sarah, daughter of Godfrey Wills, of Will's Grove, County Roscommon, by whom he had four sons and four daughters,
THOMAS, his heir;
Godfrey, killed in the East Indies;
John;
Francis;
Sarah; Maria; Letitia; Elizabeth.
Sir Ralph was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR THOMAS FETHERSTON, 2nd Baronet (1759-1819), MP for County Longford, 1783-1800, for several years in parliament, who married Catherine, daughter of George Boleyn Whitney, of New Pass, County Westmeath, and had issue,
GEORGE RALPH, his successor;
John;
THOMAS, succeeded his brother;
Elizabeth; Catherine; Isabella; Sarah; Octavia.
Sir Thomas was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR GEORGE RALPH FETHERSTON (1784-1853), 3rd Baronet, MP for County Longford, 1819-30, who espoused, in 1821, Frances Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Richard Solly, of York Place, Portman Square, London, though the marriage was without issue.
Sir George and Lady Fetherston landscaped the demesne grounds and the village of Ardagh. The conversion of the old house into the mansion within its demesne may have been completed at this time, and involved the re-siting of the village street or road. The village clock-tower and surrounding buildings were erected in 1863 in remembrance of Sir George and of his life-long devotion to the moral and social improvement of his tenantry, and the site whereon they stand purchased by Frances Elizabeth, his widow. A memorial stone in the old church records his death on 12th July 1853, and that his wife died in London twelve years later and was buried in Walthamstow. 
Sir George was succeeded by his youngest brother,

THE REV SIR THOMAS FRANCIS FETHERSTON (1800-53), 4th Baronet, who married firstly, in 1823, Adeline Godley; and secondly, Anne L'Estrange, of Moystown, County Offaly, and had issue,
George Ralph, died in infancy;
THOMAS JOHN, his successor;
Edmund Whitney;
John Henry;
Albert William Boleyn;
Boleyn Henry Francis;
Henry Ernest Wiliam;
Rosa Elizabeth; Catherine.
Sir Thomas was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

SIR THOMAS JOHN FETHERSTON, 5th Baronet (1824-69), who espoused, in 1848, Sarah, daughter of Henry Alcock, and had issue,
GEORGE RALPH, his successor;
Adeline Margaret; Caroline Louisa.
Sir Thomas was succeeded by his only son,

THE REV SIR GEORGE RALPH FETHERSTON (1852-1923), 6th and last Baronet, who died unmarried, when the baronetcy expired.

Sir George was born in Dublin and educated at Brighton College.

In his mid-twenties he entered Salisbury Theological College to prepare for ordination into the ministry of the Church of England.  

He served as curate in Tenby and Worcester City, and for six years as Rector or Vicar of the Parish of Pydeltrenthide in Dorset.

He served also as an honorary chaplain to Millbank Military Hospital, London, during the 1914-18 War.

He was one of the first two men in Holy Orders to serve as Sheriff in their Counties until the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland clerics of the Anglican Communion were not permitted to hold such Office.

Being Sheriff in 1897 he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal and preached his Jubilee Sermon in St. Patrick's Church, Ardagh.

Sir George was a man of many interests and hobbies — music, travel, cycling, fishing, photography, collecting ancient china and stamps, bird-watching and study of insects.

He travelled widely in Europe, Africa, North and South America.

This must have absorbed some of the Ardagh estate income.

He was Fellow and Vice-President of the Guild of Church Musicians and of the Victoria College of Music London. 

Who's Who credited him with the composition of 150 alternative tunes for Hymns Ancient & Modern, various chants, songs and other music, but none of these are to be found in current chant and Hymn books.

His publications have been listed as The Malvern Hills, Through Corsica with a Pencil. The Mystery of Maple Street, A Poem: The Rose of England. An Incident in the Siege of Antwerp, A Legend of Corpus Christi College, and four books of Sermons and Addresses.

These may have been published privately for limited sale or distribution.

Sir George may not have had much interest in the ownership and management of the estate.

He entered into voluntary agreements with over 300 tenants to sell to them the freehold of their farms, under the Irish Land Act 1903. 

The Ardagh estate was not acquired or purchased by the Irish Land Commission, which, however, advanced the money required by the tenants and others, and the holdings were vested in them by the Commission in 1922-23.

An area of 427 acres of bog land was vested in trustees for the use of purchasing new freeholders.

Sir George retained Ardagh House and demesne acres until his death in a Worcester City Nursing Home, and burial in Tenby, South Wales, in 1923. 


An attempt to destroy the house by fire in 1922 may have been a local expression of dissatisfaction with allocation of estate land or an effort to hasten sale of the last remnants of the estate.

Manuscripts written in Irish were salvaged from the 1922 flames of Ardagh House.


ARDAGH HOUSE is an eight-bay, two-storey (originally three-storey) over-basement house, originally built ca 1730 and altered ca 1826 and ca 1863. 

A Three-bay, two-storey block (formerly the ballroom) was attached to the south-east end, having hipped slate roof with overhanging bracketed eaves.

A single-bay porch with tetra-style porch to the centre of the front façade (south), adjoined to the east by a four-bay single-storey additional conservatory with pilasters and lean-to roof. 



Ardagh House was acquired as training college by the Sisters of Mercy ca 1927, with multiple extensions to the east and the north-east.

It retains much of its early character despite a fire in 1948 that resulted in it being reduced to two storeys in height.

Much interesting fabric remains, such as some timber sliding sash windows, and console brackets to the porch. 

Although probably early-to-mid 18th century in date, this structure now has a predominantly early-to-mid 19th century appearance.

The elegant porch and conservatory, and the former ballroom/block to the east, were also added at this time. 

It also retains some of its early fabric to the interior, despite the fire in 1948, including plasterwork and fireplaces.

THE POET and novelist Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74), when a young man, once loitered on his way between Ballymahon and Edgeworthstown, strayed from the direct road, and found himself benighted on the street  of Ardagh.

Wishing to find an inn, but inquiring "for the best house in the place", he was wilfully misunderstood by a wag and directed to the large, old-fashioned residence of Sir Ralph Fetherston, 1st Baronet.

Sir Ralph, whom the poet found seated by a good fire in the parlour, immediately perceived the young man's mistake; and being humorous and well-acquainted with Goldsmith's family, he for some time encouraged the deception.

The incidents of the occasion form the groundwork of Goldsmith's well-known comedy "Mistakes of a Night."

First published in December, 2011.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Lisgoole Abbey


ANDREW JOHNSTON, of Derrylin, County Fermanagh, married M Johnston, and had issue,
Andrew, of Beech Hill, Derrylin;
HUGH, of whom presently;
Robert, of Lisgoole Abbey, d 1913.
The second son,

HUGH JOHNSTON (1825-1912), of Beech Hill, Derrylin, wedded, in 1877, Caroline Henrietta, daughter of Richard Arnold, of New York, and Babylon, Long Island, USA, and had issue,
ROBERT WILLIAM, of whom we treat;
Alfred Andrew, of St Angelo, County Fermanagh (1883-1918);
Teresa, b 1885.
The eldest son,

ROBERT WILLIAM JOHNSTON JP DL  (1882-1971), of Lisgoole Abbey, High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1920, married, in 1911, Jane Thallon, daughter of William Teele JP, of Dunbar, Enniskillen.


LISGOOLE ABBEY, near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, was the residence of the Jones family during the 19th century:-

MICHAEL JONES, of Lisgoole Abbey, married Mary, daughter of John Davie, and had issue,

MICHAEL OBINS SEELY JONES, who wedded Kate Thomson, and had issue,

KATE MARY BARRETT JONES, who espoused, in 1871, Edward Willoughby Fowler, son of the Rev Luke Fowler, and had issue,
Willoughby Jones, Lieutenant-Colonel in the army;
Cecil Arthur;
Edward Gardiner, CBE, Lieutenant-Colonel in the army;
Charles Knox;
Mildred Eleanor.
The Joneses owned 743 acres of land about 1870.

The house is an early 19th century Gothic villa comprising two-storeys and three-bays, with a battlemented tower at one end.

The tower, with perhaps some of the range of buildings extending behind it, is said to be all that remains of the abbey, all re-worked.

It contains one large square room lit by an enormous tripartite window on the main front.

There is a fan-lighted doorway, with a large window inserted later in the bay to the right of the doorway.

A substantial Wyatt window is in the base of the tower.


The interior is a surprise, for the house was decorated about 1910 by Waring & Gillow, who provided elaborate plasterwork, a curving main stair, and an Elizabethan-style fireplace.

at the same time battlements to match the tower were added across the front of the house, making it even prettier.

Lisgoole was once a monastic site.

There are references to a garden belonging to the first owner after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, but no evidence of this remains.

The present demesne plan is much as it appears on the 1830s OS map, together with early 19th century Gothic-style house at the lough shore.


The parkland undulates and the house is approached by a winding avenue.

There is mature planting in the shelter-belt and some parkland trees, including exotics, though the area is intensively farmed and many parkland trees had gone by the beginning of the 20th century.

A maintained ornamental garden at the house has a rose-garden, originally developed in 1905 and replanted with 400 new roses in 1982; and a pergola.

An area of specimen trees and shrubs set in grass lies to the north of the house.

These plantings date from the early 20th century, with later reinforcements.

The part-walled garden is maintained with box hedges, fruit, vegetables and flowers but not to the original layout.

The mid-19th century gate lodge has a modern extension.

The Farm Museum contains old farm machinery and gardening equipment used on the estate in the past.

Other demesne buildings are in good order.

This estate comprised 743 acres during the 19th century.

It was formerly the residence of a family called Jones.

First published in September, 2010.    Photograph courtesy of Udo Vogel.